The term message in a communications context refers to any information sent from one person, machine (e.g., a computer) or other object to another.
A message can contain any kind of data, including text, sound and images. And it can be sent over any of several types of media, including copper wire, optical fiber and radio waves. On the Internet and other networks that use a packet switching protocol, each message is divided into small segments called packets prior to transmission and then reassembled from the packets at the destination.
This term message is likewise commonly used in the field of cryptography, in which its definition is sometimes extended to include any information that is, or might be, encrypted or decrypted, rather than just information that is sent from a source to a destination.
There are also a number of other meanings. For example, in human interaction or advertising it refers to the underlying theme or idea, as illustrated by the popular saying The medium is the message.
Created November 3, 2005.